Documentaries come in all shapes and sizes, and the best are the ones that divide the action between re-enactments of the subject at hand and the talking heads offering their different opinions. The Pez Outlaw straddles that line beautifully and delivers a intricately detailed heist picture amid the fact-spewing players.
In the 1990's, before the World Wide Web, the world seemed like a bigger place. Frustrated machinist Steve Glew discovered the world of Pez collecting. (For the uninitiated, PEZ is a disgusting sugar candy that is nothing to write home about, but they are dispensed from the neck of a plastic container, usually a character of some sort, and these dispensers have become major collectables.)
Glew learned that Pez US declined taking on many new Pez designs from Pez International. These European Pez were highly sought after by American collectors. Just disgusted enough with his day gig, Glew felt like he had nothing to lose by hoping a plane with his 20-year-old son and heading to Europe to find the Pez plant and see if he could acquire product for hungry collectors back home.
With his simple, good old boy persona, Glew actually got inside the factory and left with thousands of the plastic candy dispensers, having bought them for twenty-seven cents a piece. (He describes getting inside the plant as like entering Willy Wonka's factory.)
Quickly, Glew was thrust into the center of Pez collecting as word of mouth spread like wildfire and soon collectors were calling him, offering upwards of $300 for some of the prizes in his duffel bag.
This is a heist picture. It's about smuggling. We have a hero. There is a villain (The Pezident!). There is a cast of quirky players involved. There are tense scenes of Glew stuck in customs and at the boarder, under a spotlight with armed guards and dogs. There is intrigue. It is De Palma's Scarface with Pez rather than cocaine. But most importantly, it has a heart that binds it all together and that is what pulls you in.
Steve Glew is a hero to many and a bad guy to some. He is a man who deeply loves his family and is dedicated to his wife like few can honestly claim. He's a real guy. He had a cockamamie scheme and was just brave enough to give it a go and he lived the life.
It's for you to decide if he is a good guy or a bad guy. Whatever you think of Glew, he was brave enough to challenge the dragon, knowing he only had a slingshot and a handful of rocks for battle. I think Glew is that goofy everyman hero most of us only dream of becoming.
The Pez Outlaw scratches the itch for True Crime fans who like non-violent true crime stories, of which there does not seem to be too many.
You can find it streaming on various platforms. If you have library card and your library system supports Hoopla, you can stream it there for free.